CALLS from the Greens last week to scrap the Lord’s Prayer from Federal Parliament have been refuted by Jewish Members of Parliament, despite the prayer’s origins in Christianity.
The prayer, which has been recited at the beginning of every parliamentary sitting day for more than a century, “is one of the Parliament’s many fine and proud traditions” according to Kooyong MP Josh Frydenberg – and something he would like to see continue.
The debate, sparked by Greens Senator Richard di Natale, has seen Jewish MPs called on for their views in the mainstream media. Speaking to Neil Mitchell on 3AW, Member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby said the Lord’s Prayer is not something which should be abolished.
“It doesn’t harm anyone. The Parliament respects minorities. Ed Husic gets sworn in on the Koran and I do it on the Old Testament. It doesn’t really bother me,” he said.
Meanwhile, speaking to Fairfax Media, Danby’s Labor colleague Mark Dreyfus drew attention to the United States model where the opening prayers are led by chaplains of many faiths.
Reiterating these views to The AJN, he said this could be a more inclusive way of acknowledging the multi-faith nature of Australian society.
Nonetheless, Dreyfus emphasised that the Lord’s Prayer has “a very long tradition in our parliament”.
“I think the Greens are not showing an understanding of the importance of religious faith for very many Australians,” he said.
“Commencing parliamentary proceedings with a prayer does not in any way detract from the separation between state and religion that is an important part of government in Australia.”
Frydenberg noted that William Knox, who moved the motion to introduce the Lord’s Prayer, made it clear at the time that the prayer was “unsectarian in character” and could be accommodated by members of the “Hebrew faith”.
“His statement still holds true today,” Frydenberg said.
Senior law lecturer at the University of NSW Fergal Davis said that while the Australian constitution does not appear to prohibit the recital of the Lord’s Prayer, “there are other cultural and political questions around it.”
“It does seem anachronistic,” he said.
President of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia Rabbi Moshe Gutnick asserted that there “definitely” should be a prayer of this nature to begin proceedings.
“From a Jewish perspective, the acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty is universal to all of humankind,” Rabbi Gutnick told The AJN.
“The Lord’s Prayer may have a certain Christian flavour to it, so perhaps it should be made more universal, but I certainly prefer that there should be an acknowledgement of God [rather than nothing at all],” he said.
Kooyong MP Josh Frydenberg